(WBBM NEWSRADIO) — While the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the health of millions, it also presents unique challenges for more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s Disease and their caregivers.
Most notably: public health strategies reminding residents to practice good hygiene habits, like frequent hand-washing.
But for those with dementia, reminders aren't enough.
"You have to be a bit more directive. Tell them, ‘It's time to wash your hands,’” says Melissa Tucker, director of family services for the Illinois chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. "Cue them, wash your hands with them, physically demonstrate that it's time to wash their hands."
The changes surrounding COVID-19 also present concerns for those who take comfort and rely on daily routines.
"They might have a familiar caregiver that they're used to, but now that caregiver is wearing a mask, and that can be frightening to them," Tucker explains.
It's equally demanding on caregivers and family members, now that certain services have stopped.
"Adult daycare services stopped two weeks ago, so people who were taking a loved one with dementia to an adult day center have to make other arrangements," added Tucker.
Tucker says other residential facilities are now closed to visitors, only allowing staff and medical personnel.
"We're encouraging people to reach out to that facility and ask them, 'How can you communicate with me? Let me know what's going on, give me an update because I can't go in and see this person like I used to.'"
The Alzheimer's Association is providing support to families and caregivers through a 24/7 helpline at (800) 272-3900.